The 1991 World Series is widely regarded as one of the best ever. The Atlanta Braves and Minnesota Twins, both teams that finished in last place in 1990, met in a series that featured five games, including the ten-inning game seven masterpiece, decided by a single run. More than twenty years after this historic, tension-filled series, here is a look at where some of the key members of both teams are today:
Dan Gladden – Outfield, Minnesota: Gladden, who scored the winning run in the Twins’ 1-0 game seven win, retired following the 1994 season. After serving as a scout for Colorado and a roving minor league instructor, he began a career in broadcasting in 2000. He is currently a color analyst on the Twins Radio Network.
Lonnie Smith – Outfield, Atlanta: Smith, who started for the Braves due to Otis Nixon’s drug suspension, hit home runs in games 3, 4, and 5. He is best remembered, however, for a baserunning blunder in game seven when he failed to score on Terry Pendleton’s eighth inning double. Smith also played in the 1992 World Series with the Braves. He retired following the 1994 season. He briefly returned to the public eye in 2006 when he told a Columbia, SC newspaper in that he once considered killing then Kansas City GM John Schuerholz while under the influence of drugs.
Rick Aguilera – Closer, Minnesota: Aguilera, one of the premiere relief pitchers of the 1990’s, saved Minnesota’s game one and two wins. He also factored in two decisions, losing game three and picking up the win in game six. He went on to play nine more seasons with the Twins, Red Sox, and Cubs. After retiring with 318 career saves in 2001, Aguilera returned to his native California. He lives in the San Diego suburb of Rancho Santa Fe and spends his time on family and real estate ventures.
Mark Lemke – Second base, Atlanta: Lemke, a career .246 hitter, played out of his mind in the ’91 World Series, hitting .417 with 3 triples. He won game three with a walk-off single in the 12th inning, and scored the game winning run in game four on Jerry Willard’s sacrifice fly in the ninth. Lemke played in three more World Series with Atlanta before retiring in 1998. He went on work for the Braves Radio Network as a pre-game and post-game show host and occasional color commentator.
Kirby Puckett – Outfield, Minnesota: Puckett, a ten-time All Star, almost single-handedly won game six for the Twins. He had an RBI triple, drove in a run with a sacrifice fly, and saved a run with a remarkable, leaping catch. But he saved his best moment for the 11th inning, when he hit a walk-off homerun off of Braves lefthander Charlie Leibrandt to send the series to a deciding seventh game. Puckett retired following the 1995 season due to a bout with glaucoma, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001. He struggled with legal troubles in the early 2000’s, but was cleared of all charges. Puckett died of a stroke in 2006 at the age of 45.
Terry Pendleton – Third base, Atlanta: Pendleton, the 1991 National League MVP, hit .367 with two home runs, including a game six long ball that tied the game at 2. He played three more seasons with the Braves, Marlins, Reds, and Royals before retiring following the 1998 season. He has been a member of the Braves coaching staff since 2002, serving as both hitting coach and first base coach during that time.
Jack Morris – Starting pitcher, Minnesota: Morris’s game seven start is the stuff of legend: Ten scoreless innings in Minnesota’s 1-0 victory. For the series, Morris went 2-0 with a 1.17 ERA in three starts and was named World Series MVP. Since retiring following the 1994 season, Morris spent time as a broadcaster for several teams. He currently works as a pre-game and post-game host and sometime color analyst for the Twins radio network. In 2014, Morris once again failed to gain induction into the Hall of Fame despite a career that featured 254 wins and 2,478 strikeouts. He could still be elected by the Veterans Committee.
John Smoltz – Starting pitcher, Atlanta: While not as famous as Morris’s performance, Smoltz also had an excellent outing in game seven, pitching 7.1 shutout innings. Smoltz failed to earn a decision in two starts in the 1991 World Series, despite allowing just two runs in 14.1 innings. He would go on be an integral part of Atlanta’s 14 consecutive division title run, winning 15 postseason games before retiring in 2009 with 213 wins, 154 saves, and 3,084 strikeouts. He currently works as a color analyst for Fox.
Tom Kelly – Manager, Minnesota: The 1991 World Series win was the second (Minnesota also won in 1987) for Kelly, who spent 16 season as manger of the Twins. He retired from managing following the 2001 season, finishing with 1,140 career wins. He currently works in the Minnesota front office as Special Assistant to the General Manager.
Bobby Cox – Manager, Atlanta: The loss to Minnesota was just a temporary setback for Cox, who would go on to lead Atlanta to a win over Cleveland in the 1995 World Series. He managed the Braves until 2010 when he retired with 2,504 wins, good for fourth in MLB history. Cox was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 2014.
In many ways, the 1991 World Series was a meeting of teams headed in opposite directions. Following their win over Atlanta, the Twins wouldn’t make another postseason appearance until 2002. The Braves, on the other hand, would go on to win a record 14 consecutive division titles and appear in four World Series in the 1990’s, including a championship in 1995.
While there have been a number of well-played fall classics since, few can compete with 1991’s meeting of two worst-to-first teams in a series so close that to this day it seems that neither deserved to lose. It just doesn’t get much more dramatic than that.